Green Industry Articles

Green Leasing

Sarah Jones acknowledges that people typically consider residential leasing the less glamorous part of a real estate career. Yet, developing a rental niche can pay the bills, build a pipeline of steady clients, and do a good turn for the environment. Jones, an NAR Green Designee, started Bamboo Realty Inc.,DBA Bamboo Leasing in Houston last October and works with property managers and owners in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Fort Worth to market and lease properties with green features.

"Property owners and managers have an unlimited number of REALTORS® they can work with," observes Jones. "Offering green services is a great way to differentiate yourself, and it's a niche you can carve out."

In just one year, Bamboo has grown from three agents to 14. During the month of November 2009, the company's first full month in business, it closed $14,671 in rental commission income.

And in the first nine days of November 2010, it closed $50,758 in rental commission income.

And more renters, particularly 20- and 30-somethings, are interested in green properties. An April 2010 apartments.com survey, for instance, found that the majority of respondents wanted to live in an apartment community that catered to their environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents indicated that they'd prefer to live in a green apartment community. More than 25 percent indicated that they’d pay higher rents to save money on energy costs.

Jones started by identifying rental buildings that already had green features and built relationships with the owners and managers of those buildings. She found properties with varying levels of greenness. Some offered recycling, others had a LEED rating, and still others incorporated green construction or materials, such as radiant barrier rooftop insulation, solar shades, or recycled post-consumer tire rubber as sound barriers between floors.

When she shows rental properties, she doesn't focus on traditional amenities, such as room or closet sizes. After all, she says, people can figure out whether their bed will fit into a bedroom.

Instead, she points to features like double-pane windows and solar shades and what they'll mean for tenants' comfort and energy bills. And depending on the building or unit, Bamboo agents call attention to everything from energy efficient appliances, water-saving devices, and premium parking spots for hybrid cars, to carpet made from recycled material and low-VOC paint on the
walls. "Those are all good talking points," notes Jones.

In addition, advertising for such units point up buildings' green characteristics, including:

- Walkscore.com ratings
- Recycling
- Energy efficiencies
- Building materials
- Certifications, such as LEED

Bamboo's marketing, from the name of the company to the design of its logo and promotional materials, screams green. The color scheme is, of course, green, and the Web site has an earthy, organic aesthetic. Jones and her team get the green word out through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, where they promote both green rentals and offer green living tips and insight. And for
every lease it executes, the company donates $100 to a green-related charity.

And renters don't stay renters forever. Some have turned into buyers. One renter who became a buyer closed on a property in August, and Jones is currently negotiating a $2 million offer on a condo for another rental client. "We're cultivating early relationships with future buyers," she comments. "I have a dedicated client well before another REALTOR® has a chance to sell
them a home."

Resources:

• ENERGY STAR-- Offers information about lowering multifamily housing operating costs and ways to promote energy efficiency among residents.

• Green Landlady-- Covers an array of green property management-related topics.

• National Apartment Association-- Feature resources and tools to green rental properties.

Green Resource Council Newsletter, November 2010